How Restaurants Should Fight Dallas' Dining ADD
In this week's paper I tackle Bistro 31, the new Highland Park restaurant by Lombdardi Family Concepts. While researching the story, I spent time reading about Bistro 31 and the other restaurants in the group on well designed websites for each location. One line on Bistro 31's website stood out:
Sara Kerens Eric Brandt has Highland Park's attention. It's his job to keep it.
Our menus are changed daily according to quality of ingredients and availability
I interpreted this to mean a rapidly evolving menu that featured seasonal dishes, and menu items that would change often as ingredients became available. But the menu listed on the website, and offered in print in the restaurant, hasn't changed much since Bistro 31 opened. Panna Cotta has been replaced with affogato, but otherwise the menu has remained relatively static for almost two months.
I called the restaurant and asked what was meant by the statement and received a completely different explanation. Bistro 31 wasn't trying to imply a rapidly evolving menu, but instead warning that any given time, due to availability of quality ingredients, items depicted on the website menu may not be available when you come to dine at the restaurant.
But why shouldn't the menu change? For the past few months I've been thinking about a loose term I see thrown around by restaurant chefs and owners describing the perceived behaviors of their customers. They call the behavior dining ADD. The thought is that Dallas is filled with diners who constantly hunt for the next best thing, and that the reason so many restaurants fail is that customers have no loyalty. Instead they bounce around like moths, chasing the bright lights that illuminate Dallas' newest hot spots.
I have a counter argument. While it certainly must suck to develop a fine menu of well-honed dishes, enjoy the spotlight for a few months and then watch tables sit empty, blaming customers is no way to combat their ADD. No matter how flighty Dallas' dining collective may be, it's the responsibility of the restaurant to reinvigorate their menus, spin their concepts, market their new offerings and keep customers coming in.
Bistro 31 is definitely enjoying its time on Highland Park's center stage. The place was mobbed during every one of my visits. How long the remain the center of attention is up to them.